California trial lawyers tout legislative gains

Justin Anderson Mar. 30, 2011, 7:12am


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) A group representing trial lawyers in California says they're gaining traction with consumer-minded legislation.

J.G. Preston, press secretary for Consumer Attorneys of California, told Legal Newsline: "As you know, we've had a change in governors here in California, from Republican to Democrat, but the Republicans who are in the minority in both chambers of the legislature continue to push their tort reform agenda and it continues to go nowhere, a trend that's extended over the past decade."

Preston added, "It's still early in our legislative cycle here, but we're confident the pro-consumer trend in the California legislature will continue."

Democrat Jerry Brown took over the governorship in November, a post held by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger for the last eight years.

John A. Montevideo, president of Consumer Attorneys of California, said legislative activity continues to side with consumers over business interests.

"So far this year we've seen legislative Republicans continue their efforts to reduce individuals' access to the civil justice system, the most direct form of democracy we have," he said. "Among the bills we're successfully fighting are a measure to curtail the right of Californians to bring class actions, an attempt to limit punitive damages and an effort to take punitive damage awards out of the hands of juries."

Montevideo also pointed to a bill currently pending in the state Assembly's Committee on Insurance - AB 1063 - that is meant to protect motorists involved in collisions with uninsured or underinsured motorists.

Montevideo said the bill "will ensure consumers get what they pay for" from their policies.

"Right now, consumers aren't guaranteed full coverage to the policy limit when an uninsured/underinsured driver causes an accident that exceeds the policy limits," Montevideo said.

According to the latest "Judicial Hellholes" report from the American Tort Reform Association, California ranks second on the list as bad states for business due to litigation.

"California has a history of wacky consumer class actions that further encourages plaintiffs' lawyers to seize on minor missteps as a means to lots of cash," the report says.

ATRA cited two "wacky" lawsuits targeting extra virgin olive oil and a claim by Apple that reading from iPads is just like reading books.

According to the Associated Press, the olive oil lawsuit, filed last year in Orange County, involves a group of restaurant owners and home cooks in California who sued distributors and retailers over the "extra-virgin" description of the products.

The plaintiffs cite a University of California-Davis, study that found 69 percent of imported and 10 percent of California "extra-virgin" olive oils did not meet International Olive Council standards of pure extraction.

The AP reported that the lawsuit seeks class action status and targets 10 brands of olive oil.

The lawsuit filed against Apple, Inc. over its new iPad product accuses the company of making a faulty product and falsely advertising its likeness to a book.

The lawsuit was dismissed last month as "insufficient," according to Computerworld, because the complaint did not detail a specific advertisement. A judge gave the plaintiffs time to amend the complaint.

According to a copy of the complaint, provided on The Consumerist website, the plaintiffs allege that the company's claim that "reading an iPad is just like reading a book" is false because books can be read outdoors in the sunshine without overheating.

The class action lawsuit was filed in federal district court of northern California by Jacob Baltazar, Claudia Keller, and John R. Browning. The Oakland, Calif. firm of Scott Cole and Associates filed on behalf of the plaintiffs.

"Thankfully, at least some judges have resisted these shameless lawsuits, often filed primarily to benefit the lawyers who concoct them," the ATRA report says.

Philadelphia ranked first in the latest ATRA report. West Virginia ranked third; South Florida ranked fourth; Cook County, Illinois ranked fifth; and Clark County, Nevada ranked sixth.

Legal Newsline sent queries to the following individuals seeking information similar to that provided by the California trial lawyers group. The queries went unanswered:

  • Victoria Coolbaugh, spokesperson for the Nevada Justice Association

  • Tommy Townsend, executive director for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association

  • Leah Guerry, executive director for the Louisiana Association for Justice

  • Debra Henley, executive director for the Florida Association for Justice

  • Craig Giangiulio, executive director for the Pennsylvania Association for Justice

  • Thomas F. Previc, public affairs director for the Pennsylvania Association for Justice

  • Eileen Smith, legislative assistant for the Pennsylvania Association for Justice

  • Anna Adler, deputy political director for the New York State Trial Lawyers Association

  • Beth White, executive director for the West Virginia Association for Justice

  • Todd A. Smith, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association

    Legal Newsline also attempted to research the website of the national trial lawyers group, American Association for Justice, but access to information related to the group's legislative agenda was restricted to dues-paying members.

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    Organizations in this Story

    American Association for Justice
    777 6th Street Northwest
    Washington, DC 20001

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